We researched the idea of adoption for several years, reading people’s blogs and online stories, joining FB and Yahoo groups, talking to adoptive parents, reading books, etc… What held us back from committing fully, during the years of reading and research, was the nagging question about whether we could – as a dual-full-time working family with two active biological children – do this.
Looking back now, it seems a crazy reason to hold back on a calling or a dream, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we weren’t more than a little concerned and worried to see that just about every story we read about adoption was written by a family in which one parent stayed home full time with the child/children.
At my husband’s urging, I tried to find even one family story or blog or online group where there was a full-time working mom who posted about her family’s journey with adoption. Honestly, it was not an easy task, and it did not help my effort to persuade him that adoption was do-able for a family like ours.
Thankfully, we decided to take the leap of faith anyway. We submitted our payments and paperwork and began the search and wait for our daughter-to-be. Once logged in, we received a pretty quick referral for a child who had one of the special needs on our “list,” but who was malnourished, not meeting milestones, and whose videos were heartbreaking. The conditions of the orphanage (as shown in the pictures and in one short video clip) were terrible.
We sent her file to be reviewed by a doctor at an international adoption clinic in a neighboring state. When the doctor in charge called us about this file, her first question of me was whether I worked. My heart sank. When I responded that I did work full time and that I planned to take 3 months off to be home with our adopted child, she paused and then said that she did not think this was the child for our family. She thought the child had the best chance for success and recovery in a family in which one parent was home full time – and possibly even in a family with no other children. Neither situation applied to us. We made the difficult decision to decline the referral.
One month later, we received another referral and sent that child’s information to the same doctor to review. Her response, upon having reviewed the child’s information, was similar. She told me that this child was delayed (even for a child in an orphanage setting), was very small, and that there was so little information in her file, that it was difficult to determine much of anything about her. She also said that the child was in an orphanage “known” for its poor conditions and very high caregiver to baby ratio.
We asked for an update and the orphanage gave us information that was completely different from the minimal information that had been in the original file. We asked why everything was so different and the response from the orphanage was that “the original file was wrong.” They refused to give updated pictures or to explain anything else. The doctor’s opinion was that looking at either set of measurements and considering that this orphanage was doing nothing at all to help the child (including to provide better information), we might be looking at a situation where a child would potentially need a long period of one-on-one attention and numerous therapies to attempt to recover from her rough beginning. She did not think this possible scenario was one in which I could plan to return to work post-adoption.
I remember asking the doctor whether she ever reviewed adoption files for families where there were two full-time working parents (or a single working parent). This physician (who is a working mom who has adopted from China) assured me that although it seems that the majority of adoptive families are families in which there is one parent at home full-time, that adoption was absolutely not foreclosed to families with two working parents or to families in which there is a single working mom.
Her advice was to look for a child about whom there was more available information to best assess needs, abilities, emotional and cognitive condition, undiagnosed conditions, or neglect. She also advised us to research orphanages as some are known to do much better jobs than others in caring for the babies and children. She was not suggesting that children from “worse” orphanages do not need to be adopted (they absolutely do!), but she was suggesting that a child from one of the orphanages that has a “good” reputation might be more likely to thrive in our dual-working-parent family with other children in the home.
Although I was devastated to decline another child’s file, I appreciated her insight and thoughts. My husband, however, felt even more daunted than ever about whether we could – or should – continue the adoption process.
Luckily, this was not how the story ended for us – or for the children whose files we declined. A few weeks later, while reading posts in a Facebook adoption group, I happened to see posts indicating that other families had accepted referrals for the two children whose files we declined! Answered prayers! And, only two weeks after the last call we had with the IAC doctor, we received a call from our agency representative about a child she had a “strong feeling” was our daughter. And, she was!
Although not everything about a child is apparent from photographs and updates, we were able to see from our daughter’s file pictures, videos, and reports, that she was thriving, healthy, on target developmentally, and seemingly very attached to her caregiver. In the end, she was the right fit for our family in many more ways than just because we are a two-working parent family. But, specific to the topic of working moms and adoption, her special need (albinism) is one that requires very few medical or other appointments or intervention.
She sees an ophthalmologist once a year and a dermatologist once a year. She works with a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) at her preschool for 45 minutes each week and I get a report on their sessions since they occur during the school day. She had no undisclosed needs and, to our great joy, was very well cared for before we came for her, was very attached to her caregiver, was the ONLY child at her SWI (hers was designed to be half children and half older people, but had many more senior citizens at any given time than it has ever had children), and received tons of attention from the nannies and older residents.
Once we came home, another mom (who happens to live in our same city!) started a Facebook group for working adoption moms and I’ve now had the opportunity to “meet” and to learn from moms who are in the same – or similar – boat as I am and as our family is. While everyone – working outside the home or not – has some similar adoption struggles, there are certain issues that are unique to working moms (or dads) and it is great to have a place to go to seek advice, to ask questions, to get information on the different ways that various employers treat adoption leave, to discuss daycare, nanny, or preschool options, to discuss how to navigate work and therapies or medical appointments, to vent, and to provide support for other working parents who are facing similar challenges.
In the end, the IAC doctor was right. Although it may seem that dual-working-parent (or single working parent) adoptive families are difficult to find, these families do exist. Adoption is definitely not foreclosed to these types of families. It just may be that there are some children whose needs and backgrounds fit better with these families than do others (which is not to suggest that working parents would not reconsider working if they gave birth to or adopted a child who truly needed a parent at home full time).
Whether a family is comprised of a single working mom, of dual-working parents, or of a stay-at-home parent, each family has to consider its unique circumstances (work, other children, other needs at home, finances, insurance, outside resources, etc…) when deciding which child is meant to become a part of that unique family.
I read recently in a Facebook group the wise words of another adoptive mom. In response to some posted criticism of prospective parents who were thinking that they might be best suited for a younger child with minor needs, this mom said that we should all remember two things: (1) that sometimes we can do more than we think we can, and (2) that adoption is not a contest between who does more or who adopts more or who seeks out children with more needs or children of certain ages. She wisely noted that the sad reality is that there are orphans who fit just about every “paper” category, and every single one needs a family of his/her own.